David L. Boone, owner of Boone Trading Co. in Brinnon, Jefferson County, agreed to help federal prosecutors after he was arrested on smuggling charges four years ago.

Share story

A Washington ivory and antiquities dealer will serve six months in federal prison after secretly pleading guilty to federal smuggling charges four years ago and then going undercover to help authorities prosecute a former Canadian Mountie described in court documents as “among the most prolific wildlife criminals ever prosecuted in this country.”

According to documents unsealed last week, David L. Boone, owner of Boone Trading Co. in Brinnon, Jefferson County, had been working with federal prosecutors since after he was arrested for the illegal possession of ivory from walruses, sperm whales and, particularly, the tusks of the narwhal, a medium-sized whale commonly called the “unicorn of the sea.”

Boone’s entire prosecution, including his guilty plea in 2013, was sealed while prosecutors in Canada and the U.S. built a case against Gregory Logan, a retired officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who last year pleaded guilty to 10 money-laundering charges in Bangor, Maine.

Court documents indicate Boone was one of several U.S. customers who routinely bought illegal ivory from Logan. Boone was set to testify against Logan before the Canadian pleaded guilty last spring.

The documents show Boone was also the target of separate investigations into the sale of illegal sperm- whale teeth and walrus skulls and tusks. He pleaded guilty to counts involving the smuggling or possession of narwhal tusks and the whale teeth.

Boone, contacted Monday, said he has tried to make up for his crimes through cooperation and community service.

“I’ve admitted what happened and I’ve cooperated and tried to make it right,” he said. “I was going through a difficult period in my life at the time” and was struggling with addiction, Boone said. “I was not making good decisions.”

The six-month sentence handed down last Thursday by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton — who allowed Boone to self-report to prison in a few weeks — was “more than fair,” Boone said.

Boone said Boone Trading Co. will remain in business.

Federal prosecutors had sought a 16-month sentence against Boone. His sentencing was delayed for nearly four years to ensure Boone’s cooperation in the case against Logan.

Narwhals are listed as threatened by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the trade in its ivory is strictly monitored. It is also afforded protection by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Both acts strictly limit how and where narwhal tusks and other marine-mammal ivory can be sold or traded.

According to the court documents, Logan was purchasing narwhal tusks from native Inuits in northern Canada. He would market them online in the U.S., then smuggle the tusks across the border in a specially modified pickup and ship them to the purchasers from the airport in Bangor.

“The protected status of the narwhal afforded importers, such as Mr. Boone, a tremendous opportunity to realize significant profits,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney James Oesterle, who oversees environmental prosecutions in the Seattle office.

Narwhal tusks are priced by the inch, he wrote, and a black-market seller like Logan might be able to charge $50 an inch. Once smuggled into the U.S., the same tusk might command $150 an inch on the black market. Tusks can be several feet long and sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

Boone purchased 38 tusks from Logan between 2006 and 2008 with a value of as much as $400,000, according to court records.

In 2011, Boone reportedly sold four sperm-whale teeth, whose sale was banned by CITES and the Endangered Species Act, to an undercover law-enforcement officer. In 2012, Boone reportedly illegally sold a banned walrus skull and tusks to another undercover agent.

In 2014, Boone was interviewed for a Seattle Times story on state Initiative 1401, which outlawed the sales of illegal ivory and poached game. The initiative passed easily.

Logan’s smuggling operation came under scrutiny in Canada and he was charged in 2012 with environmental crimes in that country. He was eventually fined $400,000 and sentenced to eight months of home confinement in Canada.

In the U.S., federal prosecutors filed money-laundering charges against him and sought his extradition, which he fought until last spring.

He pleaded guilty to 10 related counts in March 2016 and faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine.

Official estimate Logan smuggled more than 250 narwhal tusks into the U.S. over a decade, valued at nearly $2.5 million. They also say he used his position with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to ease concerns about the legality of his operation with customers and other police agencies. Court documents say the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife had become suspicious of him in 1999, but that he was able to steer the investigation away from him by invoking his status as a Mountie.

Logan retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2003.

“This case involves a decadelong conspiracy that resulted in the smuggling and commercialization of protected marine mammal parts in a volume and degree that is truly staggering,” wrote a Department of Justice (DOJ) environmental prosecutor in the Logan case.

“Illegal wildlife smuggling is not a ‘victimless crime,’ ” wrote Jeffery Wood, the acting assistant director of the DOJ’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division in seeking a long prison term for Logan. “Narwhals are threatened with extinction … because people like the defendant create, foster and encourage a commercial market for their parts.”